By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The faith community of the Archdiocese of Louisville gathered on the snowy afternoon of Jan. 15 to honor the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville.
The 150 or so congregants who braved icy roads and snow flurries were called to “Break Every Chain,” the theme of the 33rd annual celebration hosted by the Office of Multicultural Ministry. It coincided with the federal holiday designated as a national day of service.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who served as the celebrant and keynote speaker, highlighted the day’s theme by quoting a 1958 essay in which King wrote: “Along the way of life, someone might have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”
The service began with the “Call to Worship,” delivered by William Mathis, a parishioner of St. Martin de Porres Church.
“We come to affirm the actions taken by our forefathers and mothers in being stewards of this church and our nation,” he said. “We come to remind ourselves that nonviolence is the only way.”
Mathis said the day was an opportunity to pray for unity and peace.
“We come to celebrate that we are still working to overcome the injustices, economic depravations and racist prejudices in our society today,” he said.
During his speech, Archbishop Kurtz said the day’s celebration “is deeply personal, but it is not private.”
“We come to stand for something important that’s at the depth of your heart and that is the dignity of every human person. Regardless of the color of your skin, your economic circumstance we stand together. We stand in prayer,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz also discussed the life and witness of Sister Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary.
Sister Ebo was the first African American woman religious to march with King in Selma, Ala., in 1965. She is remembered for saying: “I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.” She passed away on Nov. 11 last year at age 93.
“She was a witness. And perhaps she never realized that going that day would change her own life as she spoke on the behalf of others. And, so we remember her witness and the witness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” he said.
At the conclusion of his homily, the archbishop read an excerpt of King’s 17-minute “I Have a Dream” speech, which the civil rights leader delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.
In a statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB president, said even with the progress the U.S. has made, racism remains a “living reality.”
“As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith.”
The challenge of the faithful, he said, is to bring King’s message into the present moment in a way that “inspires lasting change.”